12 CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY
12.1 Mechanism of Action
Epinephrine acts on both alpha (α)- and beta (β)-adrenergic receptors. The mechanism of the rise in blood pressure is 3-fold: a direct myocardial stimulation that increases the strength of ventricular contraction (positive inotropic action), an increased heart rate (positive chronotropic action), and peripheral vasoconstriction.
Following intravenous administration of epinephrine, increases in systolic blood pressure and heart rate are observed. Decreases in systemic vascular resistance and diastolic blood pressure are observed at low doses of epinephrine because of β2-mediated vasodilation, but are overtaken by α1-mediated peripheral vasoconstriction at higher doses leading to increase in diastolic blood pressure. The onset of blood pressure increase following an intravenous dose of epinephrine is < 5 minutes and the time to offset blood pressure response occurs within 20 min. Most vascular beds are constricted including renal, splanchnic, mucosal and skin.
Epinephrine increases glycogenolysis, reduces glucose up take by tissues, and inhibits insulin release in the pancreas, resulting in hyperglycemia and increased blood lactic acid.
When administered parenterally epinephrine has a rapid onset and short duration of action.
Following intravenous injection, epinephrine is rapidly cleared from the plasma with an effective half-life of < 5 min. A pharmacokinetic steady state following continuous intravenous infusion is achieved within 10–15 min. In patients with septic shock, epinephrine displays dose-proportional pharmacokinetics in the infusion dose range of 0.03 to 1.7 mcg/kg/min.
Epinephrine is extensively metabolized with only a small amount excreted unchanged. Epinephrine is rapidly degraded to vanillylmandelic acid, an inactive metabolite, by monoamine oxidase and catechol-O-methyltransferase that are abundantly expressed in the liver, kidneys and other extraneuronal tissues. The tissues with the highest contribution to removal of circulating exogenous epinephrine are the liver (32%), kidneys (25%), skeletal muscle (20%), and mesenteric organs (12%).
In a pharmacokinetic study of 45-minute epinephrine infusions given to healthy men aged 20 to 25 years and healthy men aged 60 to 65 years, the mean plasma metabolic clearance rate of epinephrine at steady state was greater among the older men (144.8 versus 78 mL/kg/min for a 14.3 ng/kg/min infusion).